So, what is a disaster recovery plan?
A disaster recovery plan (DPR) is essentially a roadmap designed to manage the disruptions of an unforeseen incident (such as a data breach or ransomware attack). Many small businesses may not see the value in establishing a disaster recovery plan until it’s too late, leaving their data and their client’s data at severe risk.
The likelihood of your business experiencing a cyber-attack is higher than you might think. In fact, since the pandemic hit and offices made the necessary shift to remote work and subsequent hybrid working, cybercrimes have increased significantly by 600%.
It’s important to recognise that even the tiniest vulnerability in your cybersecurity system or a single misguided click on a malicious link, can grant cybercriminals access to your business’s entire: computer systems, potentially compromising your sensitive data. The impact of cyber attacks can vary, with some instantly undermining your networks, while others can remain undetected for weeks or even months. However, all cyber attacks share the potential to inflict severe damage on your business, both financially and reputationally, meaning recovery may be challenging.
Unfortunately, there is no fool proof method of complete protection against cyber attacks. However, this doesn’t mean businesses are defenceless. By taking proactive measures, such as establishing a disaster recovery plan, robust security protocols and prioritising educating employees, organisations can significantly minimize their risk of cyber-attacks.
Picture this: you’ve just discovered that your business has fallen victim to a cyber attack. Panic sets in as you realize you have no clue about the extent of the damage, the source of the attack, or the costs involved in recovering from it. To make matters worse, you don’t have a business continuity plan or a disaster recovery plan in place. You have no idea what to do .
A 2023 statistic stated that 93% of companies without Disaster Recovery plan who suffer a major data disaster are out of business within one year, and 96% of companies with a trusted backup and disaster recovery plan were able to survive ransomware attacks.
Disaster Recovery Plan vs Business Continuity Plan
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) focuses on the restoration of IT systems and data, whereas a business continuity plan (BCP) provides a comprehensive framework to ensure the continuity of critical business functions and processes. Both plans are designed to minimize the overall impact of disruptions on an organization’s operations. The DRP addresses the technical aspects of recovery, while the BCP takes a holistic approach, considering people, processes, facilities, and external dependencies to maintain essential operations during and after a disruptive event.
Why are Disaster Recover Plans Important?
In order to achieve a successful recovery from a disaster, businesses must first recognise the various types of disasters which have the potential to affect their operations. Once these are established, organisations can develop a comprehensive DPR tailored to address the specific challenges posed by each type of disaster.
Three primary types of disasters warrant consideration: natural disasters, physical disasters, and technology-based disasters. By acknowledging these categories, organisations can better prepare themselves to respond effectively to potential crises.
- Fire damaging your office.
- Physical loss of a data centre.
- Flooding rendering an area unsuitable for work.
- Storms causing infrastructure disruptions.
- Pandemics or other health issues affecting your staff.
Take stock of your physical assets and consider how they might be affected by a natural disaster. For instance, organisations relying on a server in a central office will experience a more significant disruption compared to those utilising cloud-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Flooding or storms can also impact communication capabilities, we recommend evaluating the viability of your phone systems, cell phones, power supply, and even plumbing and fire control systems during a natural disaster.
The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a prime example of a natural disaster which significantly altered work dynamics. Future health-related concerns may require significant workflow adjustments once again. Ultimately, understanding the interplay between your assets, technology infrastructure, and the specific type of natural disaster is crucial for determining the impact on your organisation. These are the types of inquiries that should guide the development of your disaster recovery (DR) plan.
- General infrastructure failures, such as power or water outages.
- Facility problems like burst pipes or collapsed roofs.
- Break-ins or breaches of physical security.
- Heating and cooling issues that render a workplace unusable.
Similar to natural disasters, physical disasters can significantly impact your work environment and operations. In some cases, a physical disaster, such as a power outage, may necessitate temporary remote work arrangements. However, depending on your assets, you may need to relocate not only your personnel but also your technology infrastructure. It is essential to evaluate the potential consequences of physical disasters, in order to develop appropriate mitigation strategies. This includes considering alternative work arrangements, assessing the need for infrastructure relocation, and recognising the potential effects on technology and operations.
- Ransomware and Malware attacks
- Failure of server hardware
- Disruption or failure of third-party SaaS/Cloud services
- Data breaches compromising security
- Loss of data due to corruption, system failures, or viruses
- Phishing attempts targeting the organisation
- Failures in network infrastructure
- Significant outages from major internet service providers
Technology disasters are the most probable disasters an organisation will face, this category encompasses a variety of impacts which must be addressed and specifically planned around in your DRP. Fortunately, we provide numerous solutions to assist in managing technology disasters, such as Managed SOC, incident response and of course Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity.
It is important to differentiate between incidents and disasters based on their impact on the organisation. Some issues may be better categorised as incidents, warranting a specialised approach to resolution.
By acknowledging the distinct nature of technology disasters and utilising appropriate resources, organisations can effectively address these challenges and safeguard their operations.
The risks of not having a Disaster Recover plan
Increased Data Loss:
In the event of a cyber attack, sensitive business data is at risk of compromise. Without a DR plan, the identification and isolation of the attack can take longer, leaving your data vulnerable. Delayed action increases the likelihood of sensitive customer and partner information falling into the wrong hands. Furthermore, if you lack secure data backups, the damage caused by a data breach can be irreparable.
Ongoing Business Interruption:
A severe cyber incident can bring your operations to a halt if you don’t have a DRP in place. A recovery plan ensures a faster resumption of operations. On the other hand, a disorganised and chaotic response to the incident exacerbates the situation, prolonging the recovery process. Downtime leads to financial losses in terms of revenue and employee productivity, which can be particularly detrimental to smaller businesses.
The Cost of Recovery:
The longer it takes to recover from a cyber attack, the more financial strain your company will experience. Business owners often underestimate the costs associated with recovering from a data breach. Expenses include data recreation, loss of profit, potential lawsuits, and the need for system overhauls that require new hardware and infrastructure. Being caught without implementing a disaster recovery plan can have devastating financial consequences that some businesses may never recover from.
Loss of Clients, Vendors, and Partners:
Having a disaster recovery plan demonstrates responsible business practices, earning the trust of your partners, vendors, and clients. While it may not be the first question they ask when entering into an agreement, the absence of a DR plan can raise concerns about the reliability and security of your business. In the modern day digital landscape, all parties involved are at risk, making a recovery plan a top priority for potential collaborators.
As highlighted above, a disaster interrupting your organisations workflow can create significant repercussions to your operations and customer relations. A key example of a successful and smooth implementation of a disaster recovery plan, is Stripe OLT’S work with Target Media, who bounced back after a burst pipe destroyed their servers and e-mail data.
The disaster recover plan put in place by Stripe OLT prepared them to retrieve Target Media’s data from their local back up, in just 4 hours. Target Media didn’t have time to waste, and so efficiency and speed became a number one priority, empowering them to get back up and running with minimal downtime.
Through establishing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, Target Media were able to pivot and sustain operations under challenging circumstances, proving the importance of forward-thinking DRP strategies. Alex Eley, Stripe OLT’S technical Director commented: “We advised Target Media on their robust backup policy, and it has really paid dividends in this case”.
How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Having a clear understanding of your plan of action before, during and after a cyber attack is crucial in navigating the aftermath and minimizing potential damage. To build a disaster recovery plan suited to your business, follow these steps:
1.The first step in creating a comprehensive DPR is identifying who will be taking the responsibilities of designing, approving and executing the plan, it must also be confirmed which authorities will be involved and notified if a cyber attack was to occur.
2. Designing a disaster recovery plan means hoping you never have to use it, that is why it is vital for organisations to invest in sophisticated preventative measures, such as:
- Firewalls and VPNs provide increased control over network traffic and accessibility, ensuring a more secure network environment.
- Regularly updating software and adopting best practices for software patches help safeguard against recently identified vulnerabilities, bolstering your defence against potential threats.
- Implementing stringent content controls internally helps prevent unauthorized access to critical data and applications, safeguarding your most valuable assets.
- Limiting access to sensitive data to a smaller group of authorised individuals reduces the overall risk exposure, mitigating potential security breaches.
- Recognizing that the majority of security breaches stem from human error, it is crucial to invest in training and educating your staff on cybersecurity best practices.
3. A key element of planning an effective disaster recovery plan is identifying the critical risks facing your organisation, how to identify them, the impact of the attack (financial, reputational etc) and subsequently the level of priority. Identifying these risks will enable you to understand what steps can be taken to prevent them from happening in the future.
4. Once your prevention methods are in place and your cyber threats are identified, the next step is establishing visibility over your assets. Critically, you must have constant monitoring in place, so that if a cyber breach or attack is underway – you can recognise and respond to it as quickly as possible. Arguably, this is the most important element of your DR plan, as the longer you wait to respond to a cyber attack, the worse the aftereffects will be.
5. To ensure the disaster recovery plan is executed as smoothly and quickly as possible, staff members must be trained and aware of their assigned role, it must be clearly defined who will be executing the DPR, who will be communicating with stakeholders etc. Running drills which simulate the events of a cyber attack is an effective way of training staff to respond confidently and swiftly.
6. Backing up your organisations data is essential is recovering after a cyber attack. Simply because, you will be able to restore your vital data and systems, regardless of the cyber threat you’re facing. We advise backing up your data on-site and off-site, and testing these backups regularly to prepare for all scenarios and threats.
7. Once these preliminary measures are in place, it’s time to establish the incident response plan that will be executed once a cyber threat is identified. Your incident response plan is derived from your disaster recovery plan, highlighting the steps which need to be taken in order to maintain business continuity.
What actions can you take to ensure your business can continue it’s operations as soon as possible, with as little interruption as possible?
- Set up additional channels, services and facilities which can be utilised in the event of a cyber attack and prioritise communication with your internal and external stakeholders.
- Organise how you will communicate the details of the cyber attack to your staff and stakeholders/the public.
- Clarify how you will be measuring your recovery from the threat, how long it took your teams to respond and how long did your business experience ‘downtime’.
8. Finally, documenting and analysing how your business tackled a threat and implemented your disaster recovery plan is the most effective method of improving your cyber resilience. The key to implementing a robust and comprehensive DR plan is constantly looking for areas to improve and develop, as cybercriminals will continuously look for new methods to attack your organisation, it is your responsibility to stay one step ahead.
Types of Disaster Recovery Plans
Disaster Recovery for Data Centres
Organisations that operate proprietary data centres must establish comprehensive disaster recovery strategies encompassing all IT infrastructure components within the facility. These strategies typically involve creating backups located in secondary data centres or colocation facilities. It is essential for business and IT leaders to thoroughly document the physical aspects of these facilities, including heating, cooling, power supply, fire response systems, and security controls.
Disaster Recovery for Networks
Network connectivity plays a vital role in both internal and external communication, application accessibility, and data sharing during a disaster. A network disaster recovery strategy should outline a plan to restore network services and ensure access to backup data and secondary storage sites.
Virtualised Disaster Recovery
Virtualisation technology enables organisations to replicate workloads in secondary locations or cloud environments for disaster recovery purposes. Virtualised disaster recovery offers flexibility, easy implementation, rapid execution, and efficient resource utilisation. Virtualised workloads have minimal IT footprints, support frequent replication, and enable swift failover initiation.
Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery
Organisations have the option to host their disaster recovery systems in cloud environments rather than physical locations. Cloud-based disaster recovery entails more than just cloud backup. IT teams need to configure automatic workload failover to the disaster recovery cloud platform, enabling immediate recovery in the event of a disruption.
What should A Disaster Recovery Plan Include?
Goals – Defining the Desired Outcomes:
One of the fundamental aspects of a disaster recovery plan is to clearly articulate the goals and objectives to be achieved. This includes determining the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). These goals will guide the design and operation of IT systems on a daily basis, influencing factors such as backup frequency, network design, and the use of cloud services.
Personnel – Roles and Responsibilities:
It is crucial to identify and assign clear responsibilities to individuals responsible for executing the steps outlined in the DRP. Regular updates should be made, including details of alternate personnel in case of illness or vacation. A well-developed DR plan should provide sufficient detail to enable a wide range of personnel to carry out the required tasks. Relying solely on a few key individuals who possess the knowledge can pose significant risks.
IT Inventory – Identifying Assets:
This section should encompass a comprehensive inventory of IT assets, including servers, networking systems, and software licenses. Additionally, it is essential to include details of any cloud services being utilised. The inventory should provide a summary of the applications or tools running on each system.
Backup Procedures – Ensuring Data Protection:
Data holds immense value for a business, making it a critical aspect of any DR plan. It is essential to ensure that data is backed up effectively and stored in appropriate locations. Only having an onsite copy of backup data may prove insufficient in the event of a fire or other disasters. The RTO and RPO requirements, established in the objectives section, should guide the backup strategies.
Disaster Recovery Procedures – Recovering Systems and Data:
Recovering systems and data is not as simple as restoring the previously backed-up data. DR planning should consider how to recover any data generated since the last backup and address potential cybersecurity issues to prevent infected or compromised backups.
Disaster Recovery Sites – Establishing Alternate Locations:
Depending on the RTO and RPO objectives, it may be necessary to consider remote “hot” disaster recovery sites capable of backing up or replicating systems. Even for smaller businesses, it is crucial to contemplate alternate locations for systems and users in the event of a disaster affecting the main site, beyond just the systems themselves. A combination of cloud computing and remote working can be explored as part of the overall solution.
Return to Business as Usual (BAU) – Restoring Full Functionality: While the DR plan primarily focuses on restoring critical system functionality, it is also important to consider the recovery of secondary systems and the process of migrating back to a normal IT environment. Incorporating this aspect into the DR plan helps set expectations regarding timelines and budget, while also informing earlier DR decisions.
What are the 5 components of a disaster recovery plan?
Prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
What is a disaster recovery plan in information security?
A disaster recovery plan in information security is a comprehensive set of documented procedures and strategies designed to ensure the rapid and effective recovery of an organization’s IT infrastructure and data assets in the event of a disruptive incident or disaster.
What is an example of a disaster recovery?
An example of a disaster recovery strategy is the implementation of data backup measures, which enable businesses to restore lost data in the event of accidental deletion or a cyberattack, such as ransomware. By regularly creating duplicate copies of critical data and storing them in secure offsite locations, organisations can ensure the availability and integrity of their information assets, even in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
What is the difference between a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan
A disaster recovery plan is primarily concerned with restoring IT systems and data, a business continuity plan is a comprehensive framework that aims to sustain critical business functions and processes, both are designed to minimize the overall impact of disruptions on the organisation’s operations. The two plans often work in conjunction, with the DRP being a subset of the broader BCP.
How often should I test my disaster recovery plan?
It is essential to regularly review and update disaster recovery plans, typically on an annual basis. However, certain systems and procedures require more frequent testing. For instance, data backups should undergo integrity and recoverability tests at least once a week. By adhering to a regular testing schedule, organisations can proactively identify and address any issues, strengthen their disaster recovery capabilities, and enhance the overall readiness to respond to potential disruptions.
Creating a disaster recovery plan can make or break how your organisation handles as cyber attack, ensuring your finances, reputation and operations face as little interruption as possible. Our team of highly certified cloud and security engineers can help you establish and deliver a well-structured disaster recovery plan which prioritises business continuity and ensures reduced recovery time.